Five nights a week, said Bobby Berkstresser, owner now for about a decade of White’s Travel Center, the parking lot is edge-to-edge trucks. That’s in spite of one of the many things the Raphine, Virginia, truck stop is known for — its size, with more than 800 truck parking spots across approximately 100 acres the full site occupies at I-81 Exit 205.
That parking lot will get bigger next year, said Berkstresser during our brief tour around the place when I stopped en route to the 10-4 on D.C. event two weeks back.
Recent years have seen the addition of a Carillion Clinic urgent-care facility and drive-through pharmacy. There was already a resident doc’s office for DOT physicals and more routine care, laundry facilities, and a fresh deli and market that’s been going gangbusters in recent times thanks in part to COVID-19 and state-mandated reductions to in-person dining, and so much more.
White’s is recognized by drivers for its general cleanliness, I know from prior conversations. Lisa Mullings, president of the truck stop association NATSO, also has first-hand knowledge of the same. “The first time I met Bobby [Berkstresser], he was standing in one of the booths cleaning a lampshade,” she said. That attention to appearance, as well as a food court, gives the main building a feel almost more like a shopping mall than a truck stop. That socially distanced food court, partly visible in this picture, offers fast options for subs, pizza and more.
As with the social-distancing notification above, patrons of the deli are required by Virginia’s statewide mandate to wear masks indoors, as is the case throughout the stop.
When I was there, Carillion Clinic reps were on hand distributing masks, sanitizer and more, also offering free flu shots. The shots are recommended most years, especially now, given the uncertainty of COVID-19 cases increasing during the winter, potentially stressing health care facilities.
At the Iron Skillet restaurant, seating was restricted to every other table. Hot buffets were empty spaces, though a salad bar was open and well-stocked, with state-mandated hourly utensil changes and other precautions and documentation in place.
And at the back of the lot, not yet full given the mid-afternoon hour I was there:
This view of the far south end of the mammoth truck parking lot at White’s shows a logging operation that has been leasing part of Berkstresser’s interstate frontage land. The business recently purchased their own site and plans to move soon, Berkstresser said. “By Spring, we’re adding another 150 parking spots” with redevelopment of the loggers’ spot.
Other changes have been in the offing recently, too, including more of those dining options I mentioned earlier, in a freestanding building down the hill east of the truck parking lot.
In the midst of the pandemic, Berkstresser and company have been undeterred on plans to open this new Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant, a casual bar/grill-type concept.
It’s got copious outdoor seating options, tastefully arranged …
… as noted just down the way from the truck parking lot.
Inside and out, too, as you’ll see, some pieces of local racing history. Berkstresser pointed out the drag car above the bar seen in this picture belonged to Pete Eavers in the 1960s. “It was one of the fastest cars on the East Coast in its class,” he said.
This one, positioned in front of the restaurant with a couple of antique fuel pumps (not shown) won a track championship for Chad Harris, a friend of Berkstresser’s. “I was building this [restaurant] and we got on a deal. I said, ‘I’m going to make you famous.’”
If you get by Raphine on the way up North or headed back out South, stop in and tell them we said hi. It’s clear Berkstresser and company take good care of the place, particularly appreciated in times like these.